Colombia deal uphill battle in Congress

John Dimsdale Jan 25, 2008


Doug Krizner: The White House wants Congress to approve a free-trade agreement with Colombia this year. Today, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is leading a tour of 10 skeptical House Democrats to Colombia. John Dimsdale reports on the deal’s uphill battle.

John Dimsdale: Many congressional Democrats say easier trade will only encourage Colombia’s government to weaken unions and exploit forced labor.

Mark Weisbrot, with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, agrees:

Mark Weisbrot: They kill more trade unionists than all the other countries in the world combined.

But Sean Spicer, with the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office, says members of Congress who go to Colombia are getting a different message after meeting with local union, business and government leaders.

Sean Spicer: They have made tremendous strides in turning people away from paramilitary activity, terrorist activity, drug production. But what they need is economic growth.

Democratic leaders have yet to schedule a vote on the Colombian free-trade agreement. White House officials say the future of Latin America and its relations with the U.S. are at stake, since congressional rejection would most likely also doom a pending deal with Panama.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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